THE HAGUE – Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese rebel leader, has been sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for war crimes and offenses against humanity in the longest sentence the International Criminal Court has ever handed down.
Ntaganda was found guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri Province in 2002 and 2003 on Thursday.
A panel of judges Robert Fremr, Kuniko Ozaki and Chang-ho Chung at the Hague found him guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
The list of crimes includes murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation.
The so-called “Terminator” of the DRC was also convicted of the following war crimes: murder and attempted murder, intentionally directing attacks against civilians, rape, sexual slavery, ordering the displacement of the civilian population and using children under the age of 15 as soldiers, the ICC said in its ruling.
Ntaganda has been involved in numerous conflicts in both Rwanda and the DRC, and surrendered at the United States embassy in Rwanda in 2013.
He was a member of the Rwanda Patriotic Army and the alleged deputy chief of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (FPLC).
The sentence exceeds the one that has handed down to the head of the FPLC, Thomas Lubanga who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in July 2012.
The majority of the FPLC’s victims were ethnic Lendus, many of whom were forced out of the mineral-rich Ituri province by the militias, which were dominated by ethnic Hemas.
Presiding judge Fremr described the former militiaman as a “key leader” and someone who had made calls on at least three occasions to recruit child soldiers.
The children were threatened, subjected to physical violence and at least three girls younger than 15 were raped repeatedly by members of the FPLC.
Ntaganda ordered his troops to forcibly displace and attack civilians in Ituri and personally executed several of these people himself, the judgment said.
One of the attacks carried out by the FPLC saw the guerrilla group massacre 49 people, whose bodies were found in a banana plantation, tied up and displaying signs of machete injuries.
“Some bodies were found naked, some had their hands tied up and some had their heads crushed. Several bodies were disemboweled or otherwise mutilated,” Fremr said.
Fremr emphasized the seriousness of the crimes and the physical and psychological consequences suffered by Ntaganda’s victim to justify the conviction.
The victims suffered stigmatization and social rejection, the magistrate said.
The presiding judge said a child who was raped by members of the FPLC waited for months for wounds resulting from the attack to heal.
The child was forced to leave school and suffered from post-traumatic stress.
“Men, women and children and babies were found in the field. Some bodies were found naked, some had hands tied up, some had their heads crushed. Several bodies were disemboweled or otherwise mutilated.”
The ICC did not take into account any of the factors that, according to the defense, should have mitigated the sentence, such as Ntaganda’s behavior during the trial or his alleged attempts to demobilize his troops.
Ntaganda appeared with a red tie and a blue jacket, stood up for the sentence and was unflinching when he heard it.
In June 2018, judges declared Ntaganda guilty of all the crimes he was charged with.
The court found the 45-year-old former guerrilla leader was directly responsible for the crimes of murder and persecution, and indirectly responsible for the remaining charges.
The reading of the sentence reflected the cruelty of the crimes of the FPLC, the military wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots, even though the Second Congo War (1997-2003) was in its last stages.
The ICC’s condemnation of Ntaganda has been the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery by the ICC.